Archive for the ‘Matthew 2’ Category

The Death of Simon, the Accession of John Hyrcanus I, and the Rest of the Story   Leave a comment

Above:  Judea Under the Hasmoneans

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XXXI

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1 Maccabees 16:11-24

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THE DEATH OF SIMON AND THE ACCESSION OF JOHN HYRCANUS I

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Above:  John Hyrcanus I

Image in the Public Domain

The First Book of the Maccabees is primarily the story of the leadership of Mattathias and three of his five sons:  Judas Maccabeus, Jonathan, and Simon.

The Hasmonean Dynasty was not immune to the darker side of human nature.  Simon had appointed his son-in-law Ptolemeus son of Abubus the commander of the plain of Jericho.  Ptolemeus, greedy for wealth and power, plotted to kill Simon and Simon’s sons Mattathias and Judas, drunk, at a banquet.  Ptolemeus killed those men, but he did not succeed Simon.  Ptolemeus did notify King Antiochus VII Sidetes and request assistance in a coup d’état.  Ptolemeus also sent men to execute John Hyrcanus I and seize control of Jerusalem.  John Hyrcanus I, warned, escaped, had the would-be-executioners killed, and succeeded his father as the High Priest.

Shortly after John Hyrcanus I died in 104 B.C.E., the anonymous author of 1 Maccabees wrote.  The work ended as it began:  stife and infighting.  1 Maccabees, a riveting story (and a good read, especially in The Revised English Bible, 1989), is a cautionary tale.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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THE REST OF THE STORY

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For the full version of the rest of the story, consult Flavius Josephus, O reader.

John Hyrcanus I conquered Moab and Samaria.  He also ordered the destruction of the temple at Gerazim.  He died of natural causes.

Above:  Aristobolus I

Image in the Public Domain

Aristobolus I (reigned 104-103 B.C.E.) succeeded his father and assumed the title of king.  King Aristobolus I had his brother and mother killed.

Above:  Alexander Jannaeus

Image in the Public Domain

Alexander Jannaeus (reigned 103-76 B.C.E.), another son of John Hyrcanus I, succeeded Aristobolus as the High Priest and the king.  Alexander Jannaeus married Salome Alexandra.  During his reign, strife between Pharisees and Sadducees divided the kingdom.

Above:  Salome Alexandra

Image in the Public Domain

Salome Alexandra (reigned 76-67 B.C.E.) succeeded as the queen.  During these years, Hyrcanus II, son of Alexander Jannaeus and Alexandra, served as the High Priest.

Above:  Hyrcanus II

Image in the Public Domain

Hyrcanus II briefly reigned as king (67 B.C.E.) after the death of Salome Alexandra.

Above:  Aristobolus II

Image in the Public Domain

Aristooolus II (reigned 67-33 B.C.E.) had struggled with his brother Hyrcanus II for years.  The two brothers continued their struggle, transformed into a civil war, after Aristobolus took over.  The Roman Republic intervened in the civil war, first on the side of Aristobolus II.  Then the Romans deposed Aristobolus II and removed him to Rome in 63 B.C.E.  Roman General Pompey installed Hyrcanus II as the High Priest.  Yet the real ruler of Judea, was minister Antipater, who worked for the Roman Republic.  Judean independence had ended.

Rebellions ensued.  Hyrcanus II and Antipater worked for the Roman Republic.  Julius Caesar appointed Hyrcanus II an ethnarch (47-41 B.C.E.).  Antipater died of poisoning in 43 B.C.E.

Above:  Antigonus II Mattathias

Image in the Public Domain

Herod the Great, son of Antipater, entered the picture.  Herod and his brother Phasael served as Roman tetrarchs in 41-40 B.C.E. Then the Parthians installed Antigonus II Mattathias, brother of Hyrcanus II, as the Judean king and the High Priest.  Phasael committed suicide.  Herod fled to Rome.  High Priest Hyrcanus II became a mutilated (no ears) captive in the Parthian Empire.  The struggle between Herod the Great and Antigonus II Mattathias ended in 37 B.C.E.  Herod reigned as a Roman client king until he died in 4 B.C.E.

Above:  Mariamne I

Image in the Public Domain

Herod the Great married into the Hasmonean Dynasty, merging that family with his.  He married Mariamne I, granddaughter of Aristobolus II and Hyrcanus II, in 37 B.C.E.  Then Herod the great began to execute Hasmoneans:

  1. High Priest Aristobolus III (d. 35 B.C.E.)
  2. Hyrcanus II (d. 30 B.C.E.)
  3. Mariamne I (d. 29 B.C.E.)
  4. Alexandra, mother of Mariamne I (d. 28 B.C.E.)
  5. Alexander, son of Herod the Great and Mariamne I (d. 7 B.C.E.)
  6. Aristobolus, son of Herod the Great and Mariamne I (d. 7 B.C.E.)

Consider the account of the Massacre of the Innocents (Matthew 2:16-18), O reader.  It is consistent with the character of Herod the Great.

Herod the Great, at the end of his life, had terminated the male line of the Hasmonean Dynasty.  Yet the Hasmonean genetic heritage continued.  The three daughters of Herod the Great and Mariamne continued to live.  Furthermore, Aristobolus, the strangled son of Herod the Great and Mariamne I, had a daughter, Herodias.  She had a daughters, Salome.  Herodias persuaded Salome to request the head of St. John the Baptist (Matthew 14:1-12).  Herod Agrippa I was a client king of the Roman Empire from 37 to 44 B.C.E.  He persecuted Christians, and died in Acts 12:22-23.  His son, Herod Agrippa II, ruled as a Roman client king (50-100 B.C.E.).  He died childless.  With him the Herodian Dynasty ended.

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EVALUATION

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So, as we–you, O reader, and I–stand at the end of this series and ponder the Hasmoneans and their legacy, we ask, what was their legacy?  Robert Doran’s answer may prove useful.

…the author also acknowledges that the Maccabees had been the family through whom God had wrought deliverance in Israel.  He emphasizes that God does act faithfully to the people if they attempt to follow God’s commandments.  Torah faithfulness, a longing to serve God at the Temple and at the place God has chosen, vibrates throughout [1 Maccabees].  One may question whether today one should follow the same war tactics as Judas and his brothers did; one may be dismayed at the open acceptance of ethnic cleansing as a means to follow God’s commandments.  But one cannot question whether the Maccabees fought according to their own convictions to keep alive the worship of the God of Israel.  For that, their name will be remembered.

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IV (1996), 178

Doran wrote at the end of 1 Maccabees, when, as he put it:

The heady days of the opening revolt against the Seleucids have been replaced by Hasmonean institutionalization.

–178

Hasmonean institutionalization watered the seeds of destruction the sons of the old priest Mattathias had planted.  Good intentions paved the road to hell.  And Herod the Great brought down the final curtain upon the Hasmonean Dynasty.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through the First, Second, and Fourth Books of the Maccabees.  It has been an intellectually and spiritually rewarding project for me.  (There is seldom a line separating the spiritual and the intellectual for me, actually.)  I pray that this reading project has had a similar benefit for you.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PHILIPP MENANCTHON, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN AND SCRIBE OF THE REFORMATION

THE FEAST OF CHARLES TODD QUINTARD, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF TENNESSEE

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN FREDERICK MARTIN, SR., AND CHARLES AUGUSTUS ZOEBISCH, GERMAN-AMERICAN INSTRUMENT MAKERS

THE FEAST OF LOUIS (LEWIS) F. KAMPMANN, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF NICHOLAS KASATKIN, ORTHODOX BISHOP OF ALL JAPAN

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The Kingdom of This Earth, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Cedars of Lebanon, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11736

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For the First Sunday after Christmas, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty and Everlasting God, direct our actions according to thy good pleasure,

that in the Name of thy Beloved Son, we may abound in good works;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord,

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 118

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Isaiah 11:1-5

Psalm 98

Hebrews 2:1-8

Matthew 2:11-21

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Understanding Isaiah 11:1-5 requires one to back up into Chapter 10.  The Neo-Assyrian Empire, described poetically as majestic cedars of Lebanon, will fall, we read.  God will cut that empire down to size, we read.  Yet real strength will emerge from the Davidic Dynasty.  The ideal Davidic monarch will govern justly, we read.

The Bible tells us much about divine justice.  Both Testaments are replete with this content.  Obviously, we–you, O reader, and I–do not live in the ideal Davidic kingdom or even the fully-realized Kingdom of God on Earth.  Yet our governments can become more just, by a combination of grace and active faith.

Tyrants still hold sway in many places.  God is still their judge.  God is still your judge, O reader.  God is still my judge.  And repentance remains crucial.  All of that is true.

So is what follows.  God, the Incarnation, can and does identify with we mere mortals.  Jesus is able to help us, for he know temptations, too.  And the Holy Spirit is our defense attorney (John 14:16, 26; 1 John 2:1).  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.  We may safely dismiss one of the great heresies, hellfire-and-damnation preaching.  We may not safely dismiss, however, the warning that God does have standards.  Grace is free, not cheap.

Merry Christmas, O reader!  This Christmas season, may the kingdom of this Earth come to resemble more closely the Kingdom of God, for the glory of God and for the common good.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MAURA CLARKE AND HER COMPANIONS, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN EL SALVADOR, DECEMBER 2, 1980

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF GERALD THOMAS NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER; HIS BROTHER, BAPTIST WRIOTHESLEY NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ENGLISH BAPTIST EVANGELIST, AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS NIECE, CAROLINE MARIA NOEL, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HORMISDAS, BISHOP OF ROME; AND HIS SON, SAINT SILVERIUS, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 537

THE FEAST OF SAINT RAFAL CHYLINSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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A Covenant People, Part I   2 comments

Above:  Journey of the Magi

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Feast of the Epiphany, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only begotten Son to the Gentiles;

mercifully grant, that, we, who know thee now by faith,

may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord,

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit,

ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 123

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Isaiah 42:1-12

Psalm 145

2 Corinthians 3:18-4:6

Matthew 2:1-12

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I the LORD, in My grace, have summoned you,

And I have grasped you by the hand.

I created you, and appointed you

A covenant people, a light of nations–

Opening eyes deprived of light,

Rescuing prisoners from confinement,

From the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

–Isaiah 42:6-7a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The assigned readings for this feast day speak of God’s love for all people and of our human responsibilities to each other and to God.  Notice, O reader, that the audience for Isaiah 42:5f is collective, not individual.  We who carry Western individualism wherever we go need to check it at the door when reading texts that do not come from that assumption.  Psalm 145 tells us that God is just in all His ways, that God sustains those who fall and lifts up all who are bent double.  That example tells us what our character should approach, does it not?

Herod the Great was a terrible man.  He, a client king within the Roman Empire, had relatives and strangers killed, so he could maintain power.  The young Jesus constituted a threat to Herod, whose political legitimacy was questionable.  The client king appeased certain religious authorities by sponsoring the expansion of the Second Temple, but that long-term construction project could not hide his perfidy.  Herod was a negative example.

Jesus is the ultimate positive example, though.  He is the one into whose likeness we, by grace, are coming to resemble more and more as time passes.  He is the one we must proclaim, if we are to lead Christian lives.  Christ is the light that properly shines through our lives in the darkness of the world.

Does that light threaten us or attract us?  Does it shine in our lives?  Is it apparent in both our words and our deeds?  I mean “our” and “us” both collectively and individually, for the audience for Isaiah 42:5f was a covenant people, and society consists of people.  When enough people change their lives, society changes.  But does it change for better or for worse?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF YVES CONGAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELDRAD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JAMES THEODORE HOLLY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF HAITI, AND OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC; FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN BISHOP IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLATO OF SYMBOLEON AND THEODORE STUDITES, EASTERN ORTHODOX ABBOTS; AND SAINT NICEPHORUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT RODERIC OF CABRA AND SOLOMON OF CORDOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 857

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Hope in Christ   1 comment

Above:  Magi

Image in the Public Domain

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For Christmas Day, Second Service, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Glory be to thee, O God in the highest, who by the birth of thy beloved Son

has made him to be for us both Word and Sacrament:

grant that we may hear thy Word, receive thy grace,

and be made one with him born for our salvation;

even Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 118

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Isaiah 60:1-6

2 Timothy 1:8-12

Matthew 2:1-12

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Before I get to my main point, I note that two years or so passed between Matthew 2:1 and 2:2.  The gospel reading, therefore, has more to do with the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6) than the Feast of the Nativity (December 25).

Hope has always been essential.  Lack of it has led to despair, addiction, violence, and other spiritual, medical, psychological, and social ills.  Hope was essential for disappointed former exiles in Isaiah 60; their ancestral homeland did not meet their high expectations.  Hope was essential for Jews living under occupation in their homeland.

Hope remains essential for people in all circumstances.  Jesus offers much hope.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE DAY OF PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIOVANNI MARIA BOCCARDO, FOUNDER OF THE POOR SISTERS OF SAINT CAJETAN/GAETANO; AND HIS BROTHER, SAINT LUIGI BOCCARDO, APOSTLE OF MERCIFUL LOFE

THE FEAST OF JOSE DE ANCHIETA, APOSTLE OF BRAZIL AND FATHER OF BRAZILIAN NATIONAL LITERATURE

THE FEAST OF THOMAS JOSEPH POTTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Posted June 9, 2019 by neatnik2009 in 2 Timothy 1, Isaiah 60, Matthew 2

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Resisting Tyrants and Authoritarians   Leave a comment

Above:  Herod the Great

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty and everlasting God, who dost govern all things in heaven and earth:

mercifully hear the prayers of thy people, and grant us thy peace all the days of our life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

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Ezekiel 34:11-16

Ephesians 4:17-24

Matthew 2:16-23

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Herod the Great was one of the bad shepherds, to use the figure of speech from Ezekiel 34, of antiquity.  He was also a cruel man who had no qualms about ordering the deaths of relatives and strangers alike.  He was a man in need of renewal of the mind.

Questioning the authority of tyrants and authoritarians is a moral duty.  If one really takes seriously the call to effect justice, one must resist tyrants and authoritarians, certainly bad shepherds.  Doing so is far from being unpatriotic; it is quite the opposite, and in the best interests of the general populace.

If one is not in a position in which one needs to oppose a tyrant or an authoritarian, one is fortunate.  Such a person may wind up in that position in time, though, given the current rise of fascism and authoritarianism in the world.  Unfortunately, many people who claim to follow God support tyrants and authoritarians.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2018 COMMON ERA

PROPER 25:  THE TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Posted October 28, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Ephesians 4, Ezekiel 34, Matthew 2

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Judgment, Mercy, and Anger   Leave a comment

Above:  Ocean

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Lord God, who hast promised to hear the prayers of thy people when they call upon thee:

guide us, we pray, that we may know what things we ought to do,

and receive the power to do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

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Micah 7:18-20

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

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Micah 7:19 contains a wonderful word picture–God hurling the sins of the remnant of the Kingdom of Judah into the sea.  That verbal image belies a familiar stereotype about the Bible.  One can hear easily that the Old Testament is about judgment, doom, and gloom, but that God is suddenly merciful in the New Testament.  Perhaps one thinks of a certain routine by the comedian Lewis Black, in which he repeated that stereotype and said that God changed after having a son.  It is a funny joke, but a rank heresy.  It also indicates a superficial reading of the Old and New Testaments; there is a balance of judgment and mercy in both.  In Micah 7, for example, collective forgiveness follows collective punishment for sins.

The readings from Ephesians 3 and Matthew 2 indicate the expansion of the definition of “Chosen People,” whose sins God figuratively throws into the depths of the sea.  However, if one continues to read Matthew 2, one reads of the lack of mercy of Herod the Great.

A principle present in the Old and New Testaments, as in Matthew 7:1-5, is that God applies to us the standards we apply to others.  In the Law of Moses the penalty for perjury, to convict an innocent person, is to suffer the penalty one would have had the falsely accused person endure.  This is an inverse cousin of the Golden Rule.

Anger is understandable.  Sometimes it is even morally justifiable.  Often, however, it is self-destructive.  Do we define ourselves by how often we forgive and love another or by how often we hate one another and nurse grudges?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HARRY WEBB FARRINGTON, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUMENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

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A Light to the Nations IX   2 comments

Above:  The Journey of the Magi

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Feast of the Epiphany, Years 1 and 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, who by the leading of a star revealed thy newborn Son to those far off:

mercifully grant that we who know thee by faith, may in this life glorify thee,

and in the life to come behold thee face to face,

through the same thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

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Isaiah 60:1-6

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Matthew 2:1-12

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I am an unapologetic pedant.  I wince whenever I hear or read people use “viable” in lieu of “feasible.”  I know that signs above express lanes in grocery stores should read

10 Items or Fewer,

instead of the ubiquitous

10 Items or Less.

The misuse of “impact” in lieu of verbs such as “influence” and “affect,” minus the traditional physicality (either a collision or becoming wedged in somewhere) is an assault on proper English.  Likewise, the use of “impacted” for “affected,” as well as “impactful,” are inexcusable.  Any use of “they,” “them,” “their,” and “themselves” other than as plural words bothers me, for I respect the distinction between the plural and the singular.  And I know that Magi and shepherds never belong together in manger scenes.  If we reconcile the accounts from Matthew 2 and Luke 2 (a dubious proposition, according to many New Testament scholars), we must place about two years (Matthew 2:16) between them.

The Feast of the Epiphany is, on one level, about the Gospel of Jesus Christ going out to the goyim.  On another level, it is about the goyim coming (in the case of the magi, traveling) to Christ.  The reading from Isaiah 60, with the full reversal of exile and the goyim going to Jerusalem, fits into this theme well.  The Gospel of Christ is unveiled, plain to see, and like a light shining in the darkness, which has yet to understand and overpower it (John 1:5).

I stand within a theological tradition that affirms Single Predestination.  God predestines some people to Heaven and uses the witness of the Holy Spirit to invite the others.  The damned are those who condemn or have condemned themselves; God sends nobody to Hell, but everyone.  This theology is consistent with the Epiphany.  The Jews are the Chosen People, yes, but we Gentiles are like limbs grafted onto the tree of Judaism.

Will we, like the magi, obey God?  Or will we, like Herod the Great, pursue our own agendas instead?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 26, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED THE GREAT, KING OF THE WEST SAXONS

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS POTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HENRY STANLEY OAKELEY, COMPOSER

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Gentiles and Divine Justice   1 comment

Above:  The Kingdom of Herod the Great

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Ephesians 3:1-13

Matthew 2:-12

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…that through the Gospel the Gentiles are joint heirs with the Jews, part of the same body, sharers together in the promise made in Christ Jesus.

–Ephesians 3:6, The New English Bible (1970)

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That is a prominent theme of the Feast of the Epiphany and the season that ensues.

Psalm 72 is a coronation text.  It describes the ideal monarch–one who judges with justice, brings prosperity, defends the poor, delivers the needy, crushes the oppressor, and therefore deserves great respect.  I, as a student of history, cannot identify any world leaders, past and present, whom that vaunted description fits.

The reading from Isaiah 60 makes the most sense in the context of the rest of the chapter.  The historical context is the end of the Babylonian Exile and the return of exiles to a glorified, exalted Jerusalem.  We read, in the voice of God:

For though I struck you in anger, in mercy I have pitied you.

–Isaiah 60:10b, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

One reason we read Isaiah 60:1-6 on this occasion is the reference to camels in verse 6.  That element segues nicely into Matthew 2, in which Persian, Zoroastrian Magi arrived about two years after the birth of Jesus.  In Matthew 2 we meet the disturbed and violent client king Herod the Great, far removed from the ideal monarch in Psalm 72.  We read of these Gentiles, responsive to the direction of God, unlike the half-Jewish Idumean client king, a man clinging to power desperately.

Who are really the insiders?  Who are really the outsiders?  The answers, according to God, might shock many of us.  After all, the justice of God is superior to human justice, even the highest, most moral variety of it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; SAINT DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRIL OF JERUSALEM, BISHOP, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ROBERT WALMSLEY, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/18/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-epiphany-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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This is post #1850 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Judgment and Mercy, Part VII   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Life of Christ

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Isaiah 63:7-9

Psalm 148

Philippians 2:12-18

Luke 2:21-40 or Matthew 2:13-23

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Judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  An act of mercy for the Hebrews (as in Isaiah 63) is judgment upon the Edomites (as in Isaiah 63:1-6).  Divine mercy exists not because of imagined human fidelity among a given population (such as the Hebrews), but as pure grace.  So, as Psalm 148 reminds us, all of creation should praise God.

Divine graciousness creates the obligation of faithful response–manifested in devotion, not the impossible standard of moral perfection.  We cannot be morally perfect, but we can do better, by grace–and as faithful response.  Many will respond favorably to divine graciousness.  Many others, however, will be indifferent.  Still others will be violently hostile, for their own perfidious reasons.

Divine graciousness certainly has the power to offend.  That fact makes a negative point about those who find such graciousness offensive.  Taking offense wrongly is one error; becoming violent about it is a related and subsequent one.  How we respond individually to divine graciousness is our responsibility.  If we get this wrong, we will harm others as well as ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-after-christmas-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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The Unfortunate Cheapness of Human Life   1 comment

Above:  Massacre of the Innocents, by Pieter Brueghel the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

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Christmas is supposed to be a happy season, right?  Yet darkness exists within it.  Consider, O reader, the sequence of three great feasts:  St. Stephen (December 26)St. John the Evangelist (December 27), and the Holy Innocents (December 28).

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Thus we read of exiles in Jeremiah 31.  Then we read the plausible story of the Holy Innocents in Matthew 2.  Herod the Great, we know from both Biblical and extra-Biblical sources, was a disturbed and violent man who had members of his family killed.  One need not stretch credibility to imagine him ordering the murder of strangers, even young children.  Reading the story from Matthew 2 then turning to Psalm 124 creates a sense of jarring irony; one is correct to wonder why God did not spare the Holy Innocents also.

On another note, the account of the Holy Innocents provides evidence for the Magi arriving when Jesus was about two years old.  According to the Western calendar, as it has come down to us, Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E., placing the birth of Jesus circa 6 B.C.E.  I prefer to use the term “Before the Common Era” for the simple reason that speaking and writing of the birth of Jesus as having occurred “Before Christ”–six years, perhaps–strikes me as being ridiculous.

Back to our main point, while admitting the existence of morally ambiguous and difficult scenarios with only bad choices, and in which doing our best cannot help but lead to unfortunate results….

Human life is frequently cheap.  From abortions to wars, from gangland violence to accidental shootings and crimes of passion, from genocidal governments to merely misguided policies, human life is frequently cheap.  The innocent and the vulnerable suffer.  People who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time suffer.  May God have mercy on us all, for each of us is partially responsible, for merely being part of the social, economic, and political systems that facilitate such suffering.

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Only God can make that happen.  We mere mortals can and must, however, leave the world better than we found it.  We can and must do this, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod.

Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims;

and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and

establish your rule of justice, love, and peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 31:15-17

Psalm 124

Revelation 21:1-7

Matthew 2:13-18

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 143

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/fourth-day-of-christmas-feast-of-the-holy-innocents-december-28/

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